1 idea 3 planks

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I’m a big Al Ries fan. His and Jack Trout’s book on Positioning changed my career. I have memories of reading it on a Long Island Rail Road. It’s a great thought piece.

Today however, I take issue with the idea of positioning in branding. 

Positioning is the act of finding a competitive and defensible place for your brand in the consumers’ mind. The search for a position — a position being a noun. Position is defined as “a place occupied or to be occupied; site.”

In my brand consultancy branding is defined as “an organizing principle” for product, message and experience. This approach is much more fluid and alive. It allows for branding as a series of behavioral acts. Ongoing. Making ads, customer care, retail design, and web experience all fall into activities that define the brand and its promise. That prove its promise.

With branding as an organizing principle everything is viewed as an active, a non-machine related sales opportunities.  Built and enforced by people. Not a destination or compass point in the mind of a consumer.

Positioning was way better than anything before it. And barring any real brand strategy (one idea, three planks) it is the next best approach. But I think we can do a little better.




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Brands are authentic. It’s the people who manage them who are not. So let’s stop trying to find the “authenticity” for goodness sake.  (It’s like all those people talking about ROI. Guess what? They aren’t getting any.)

I suspect the reason the word authentic has been used and abused (Walt Clyde Frasier) to excess is because of social media — where anyone and her cousin are allowed to post on behalf of brands; mostly, tyro community managers fresh out of school with dexterous social fingers. (Interview question: “How many Facebook friends do you have?”). If social media were medicine, pre-meds students would be treating patients and everyone would be coughing and wheezing. Ever hear of an inauthentic doctor?

I’m not going all old school on you or anti-digital native; there are a number of smart young community managers out there learning their craft on the job and applying thoughtful analytics to social media. But the winners understand brand strategy, not just tactics.  And you won’t find them spouting off about authenticity.  They are more likely to be talking about specific expressions of brand fundies (1 idea 3 planks), things the brand is good at and things consumers want. 

Social media is an important component of the marketing mix; never more so. So let’s use it correctly and it will lift the craft.


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